1. Computing

How To Successfully Guess Your Own Passwords

Tips to Help You Remember Forgotten Passwords

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Unless your password was randomly generated, it's probably locked away in your mind somewhere. Brute force memory retrieval (i.e. "thinking really hard") isn't usually very effective so what can you do to try to remember what your password was?

Easy! You need clues! Most people create passwords, even complicated ones, based on the people, places and things in their personal and professional lives. Knowing this, check out the clues below. They might give you enough edge to finally remember that password!

Try Your Other Passwords

The most obvious advice is to try some of your other passwords! Very few computer users actually create unique passwords for each account that requires one. Most people have one or two passwords that they use across all of their accounts.

Your Name

Try variations of your own name. While this isn't a very secure way to create a password, it's very common and you may have created your password in a similar way.

For example, if your name was Michael P Archer, common passwords might include:
  • Mike1234
  • MikePA
  • leahcim
  • archerMP
You get the idea. Try different combinations of your name and maybe even your nickname.

Names of Friends and Family

Many people use names or combinations of names of family members and friends to create passwords. If something rings a bell here or you have ever created passwords like this before, give this one a try.

Pet Information

We love our pets! Which is why many passwords include pet names and pet birthdays. If you treat your cat like your kid, chances are you've used his or her name as a password. Maybe you used it this time!

Birthdays

Birthdays are also very popular passwords, especially when combined with names. If Michael P Archer's birthday was 05-June-1975, some passwords he might have come up with include:

  • m060575
  • 1975MPA
  • archerjune
  • mp75

There are a lot more possibilities here. If you think you've ever set a password like this, try some combinations with your information.

Home & Office Addresses

Complete or parts of addresses important in your life could have been inspiration for a password you created.

Ideas from Childhood

Something important to you as a child may be a theme throughout your passwords. Examples here are endless but maybe you had a favorite pet growing up, a name for an imaginary friend, etc. These types of ideas are popular ways to create easy to remember passwords... well, usually.

Important Numbers

Some numbers that often play a part in passwords include phone numbers (especially previous ones), social security numbers, notable sports scores, important historical dates, drivers license numbers, etc.

Another interesting way people use numbers as passwords is by how they are arranged on the computer keypad. For example, a popular combination includes 1793 because these numbers are at all four corners of the keypad. Does this sound familiar? If so, try some things here.

Try some of these number ideas in combination with some other ideas in this article like family and pet names.

Some Other Ideas

Other popular password inspirations include favorite foods, favorite places, vacation spots, celebrity names and sports teams.

If you're pretty good at creating secure passwords, chances are you used a combination of of any of the above ideas in creating your now forgotten password.

A Final Tip

While not exactly a guessing strategy, I've had several readers email me and suggest that I share this very simple password advice: Make sure you're entering what you think you're entering!

Since passwords are usually displayed on screen using nothing but asterisks, it's often impossible to visually confirm what you just typed.

Here are some things to think about while entering your password:

  • Is the Num Lock key on?
  • Is the Caps Lock key on?
  • Are your fingers accidentally shifted on the keyboard?

If you're lucky, whatever service or device you're logging on to will include a button on screen you can press that will temporarily show you what password you just entered. I see this more and more and it's an extremely helpful way to avoid simple typing mistakes.

Still Can't Remember the Password?

If after all this mental work you still can't remember your password, you may have to try something a little more high-tech like a password recovery program.

If you're needing your Windows logon password see Ways To Find Lost Windows Passwords, which includes the option of using a free Windows password recovery program.

For other types of passwords, see my Free Password Crackers list.

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